A lot of people consider Sheikh Muhammad Rif’at as the best recitor of Koran in the XXth century. Thanks to his soft and rhythmic voice he could penetrate the Muslims’ hearts and soul. His expressive voice reveals the meaning of the verses and vibrates the emotions in a very unique style.Childhood and youth:
Muhammad Rif’at was born in Al-Mugharbiline Street, at Ad-Darb Al-Ahmar in Cairo on Monday, 9th of May 1882. His father, Mahmûd Rif’at, was a police officer after his service as a soldier. When he became a policeman, he resided with his family in Darb Al-Aghwât, Muhammad ‘Ali Avenue. His son, Muhammad Rif’at, had come blind at the age of two due to an eye disease. This fact had always been accompanied with a sad incident. A woman said once about him: “This child is a king’s son. His eyes say so…” The following day, little Muhammad Rif’at woke up and cried because of pain; since then, his eyes never saw the light again.
Thus, his father Mahmûd made his son devote himself to serve the Noble Koran. He sent him to the Koranic school of Fâdil Pacha Mosque in Darb Al-Jamamiz. He accomplished, there, the memorisation and the Tajwid (the art of reciting) of Koran before the age of ten.
Later on, his father passed away and the child took in charge the needs of the family. He got attached to the Noble Koran and refused to make of reciting a way to earn money. He started to recite passages of the Noble Koran every Tuesday at the mosque of Fâdil Pacha’s office.
His recitation quality made of him an attractive recitor in the mosque in spite of his being only 15 and was charged to recite every Friday before the Sermon. His voice shook the audience’s hearts and his fame remained so great that there was no place left at the mosque or at the neighbouring areas. A large crowd used to rush to listen carefully to that angelic voice. It also happened that some people fainted or lost conscience while listening to that unique voice. He had been reciting Koran for 30 years, and remained faithful to the mosque where he grew up and refused significant propositions about reciting in the great mosques of Cairo.
His training activities:
Sheikh Muhammad Rif’at added to his divine gift, of having an exceptional and pure recitation, the precision and the mastery of lecturing sciences (Al-Quîrâ’ât) that he had been learning before. He also used to have a sensitive ear concerning the musical variations and to lead some of the most well known operates and classical symphonies. He studied Beethoven and Mozart’s music.
Sheikh Muhammad Rif’at was loved for his dignity and pride. The goods of this low world could not be changed for Koran’s recitation. After his abandon of this world, he did not look for wealth: He claimed form the unknown world to be under the service of Koran and all his life he will be, without being diverted from the path he had taken since his childhood. He was a man of principles and a noble spirit. He was always repeating this sentence: “The Koran recitor can never be humiliated or put into debt”. This sentence had a great impact on his entire life, on his respect to Koran and on himself. Local radio stations begged him to broadcast his voice and recite Koran, his answer was as follows: “the presence of Koran is not like the immoral songs that you put on your station”.
When Egyptian radio was founded on Thursday the 31st of March, 1934 his melodious voice inaugurate him through these verses: “Indeed we have provided you with a shining victory”. He asked the Al-Azhar scholars if he could found a lawful Koran radio and make sure that it was not going to be broadcasted in entertaining areas like bars…
Being 50 years old, the radio waves broadcasted his emotional and welcoming voice. It calmed the hearts, watered them with the softness of Koran and introduced the beauty of reciting. Plenty of people remained thirsty and eager to listen to that wonderful recitation and became like the earth which needs the arrival of clouds. They used to listen to him as if it was the first time they did. It was not about magic, but it was about the alliance of two beauties: The ultimate beauty of the divine word and angelic voice of the attendant of the most powerful.
Sheikh Muhammad’s star shone in the sky of reciting and haunted the hearts of billions of Muslims. Some people converted to Islam after listen to his recitation. One day, Sheikh ‘Ali Khalil of the radio of Cairo came to see him with an English pilot who had heard his voice in Canada and had decided to go see him. The pilot converted to Islam.
During the Second World War a lot of universal radios, such as the one of Berlin, London and Paris, competed to start their Arabic programs with his voice so that they can attract more audiences. On the other hand, the man was not looking for his own interest and refused to belittle the Koran. 15 thousand Egyptian pounds, at that time, to go to India, he declined the offer. Thus, Nidhâm Haydar Abâd ordered the ministry of foreign affaires to convince the Sheikh to take 45 thousand Egyptian pounds. The offer was, again, declined by Sheikh Muhammad Rif’at who furiously said: “I have never been looking for money; the whole world is nothing but a brief existence”.
The musician Muhammad ‘Abd Al-Wahhâb begged him to record for him the noble Koran for any price. The Sheikh could not fulfil this request fearing that the CDs get touched by drunken people or those who are in an impure (Junub).
God’s willing about Sheikh Muhammad’s health was to make him endure many illnesses which made him stay in bed. Every time he healed he returned to Koran reciting and then gets sick by hiccoughs for hours, a fact that prevented him from reciting or even speaking. Later, his angelic voice did not come out due a vocal cord tumour at the last 8 years of his life.
Since then, Musl